Sunday Review-03.11.13

A little off the beaten track for ‘Mulholland’s mumbles’ but in the current climate of image theft from websites and social networks instigating T’s & C’s that are alarmingly similar to right’s grabs I thought I’d share my method of ‘Watermarking’ photographs.

It’s stunningly simple and I’ve found myself showing colleagues on numerous occasions. It involves Photo Mechanic (PM) so if you don’t use that it’s not much use to you, though I would suggest you invest in a copy because in my opinion it is an invaluable piece of software.

Use PM to open the folder that contains the pictures you want to watermark .

Select all the ones you want to mark then hit ‘save as’. In the drop down menu that appears you will see a ‘watermark’ button press this for another drop down menu where you can write whatever you want in a text-field (© symbol is ‘alt’ and ‘g’ ). Have a play with the position, size and opacity ( you can see the settings I generally use in the picture below). When happy hit the ‘OK’ button and it will apply the watermark to every picture selected.

PM will give you the option to save them by default to the folder the originals are in or you can create a new one solely for ‘Watermarked’ images. I do the latter and leave it on my Desktop so I know if I need to upload anything it’ll be in that folder and will be ready to use.

It really is that easy.

PM1 PM2 PM3

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Sunday Review-27.10.13

OK folks it’s time for a bit of Mumbling Photographic fun.

I absolutely love local newspapers and had many a happy year on them before the move to Fleet St.

The work involved was very similar to the nationals on occasion but mostly it was a genre all of it’s own. Often cheesy but also challenging it provided a great training ground. Working at The South London Press with the likes of Jeremy Young, Mike Powell, Jonathan Evans, Martin Godwin, Graham Barclay, Chris Bott and Peter Jordan was great experience. We had our own darkroom, we were in charge of ordering film, chemicals and photographic paper. We were also given a great deal of freedom to photograph jobs the way we saw fit.

Martin was at a job with The Mayor of Southwark once when she took to the stage and during her speech seized the opportunity to berate him (and us) in front of the great and the good for refusing to take her picture. We had a policy that we would cover the jobs but we’d never actually have the Mayor (or any mayor) in the photographs.

It was around the time of the launch of The Independent and Newspaper photography was in the ascendant. My first editor Richard Woolveridge told us to go and take nice pictures so we did. Simon O’Neil and Rob Bowden also just trusted us to get the work done.

I’m really fond of some of the real cheesy stuff I shot then, we all did it but it was with our tongues firmly in our cheeks. Having said that the big jobs did come along on occasion be it breaking news like The Clapham Train Crash or a royal venturing Sarf…

Anyway here are a selection of the good the bad and the ugly..

That should read copyright Jeremy young who took this one of me in action.

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107A handsome Sarf London family celebrate with their 100 year old matriarch who loved watching horse racing on the TV (hence the TV).

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107

 

I vaguely remember that the gist of this story was that the bowls club only had one plug socket so the tea urn had to be plugged in in the ladies changing room with hilarious consequences….COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107I think this chap was called John Gladden..he erected a Swordfish on his house in Norbury and a planning permission battle escalated to this… .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107

…No idea…new management at the Brockwell Cafe….COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107

..again no idea….COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Lookalikes at the opening of a furniture store in Fulham..this was actually for The London Newspaper Group. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107The Classic “Bad Smells from the drain” picture… .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107A break from cheese to hard news during The Clapham Train Crash. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107 .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107 .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Police enter a building during a seige..Brockley I think..no idea how I got so close. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Security guard with gunshot wounds to his leg after an armed robbery across the road from our Streatham office. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Typical dodgy housing story. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107“Someone stole our dog”… .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Diana visiting Kennington. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107The last days of the Peak Frean’s biscuit factory in Bermondsey. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Queen Mum…no idea where. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Iris Bentley sister of Derek Bentley who was controversially hanged in 1953 over the murder of a policeman during a burglary. Despite being in custody (held down by another policeman) and not actually firing the shot he was none the less given the death sentence. Iris campaigned for his pardon ..COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107” A Darwinian Nightmare” a “Bandog” a cross between a Rhodesian Ridgeback and an American Pitbull. My very first Page 1 for The Daily Telegraph after the SLP had used it. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Local boy David Bowie back in Brixton..Tim Bishop of The Times is the chap in the background with the ‘Metz’ flashgun. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Ballet for local schoolkids at Dulwich Picture Gallery. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Police patrols in the underpasses at The Elephant and Castle. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Armed police storming a flat in Kennington. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107“Healthy Fruit” God knows… .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Kids playing in an impromptu paddling pool following a mains burst in Bermondsey. DTEMLOCAL19Rough sleepers in the ‘Bullring’ under the roundabout at Waterloo. DTEMLOCAL18Simon Hughes…he’d do anything to get in the paper.. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107A very bizarre way to illustrate a story about a local carpet company fitting a blind woman’s house for free. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Roy Hudd opening a charity shop. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107You can’t beat a raised eyebrow…I think it was a sponsored doughnut eating competition.. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Not sure if the farm is still about but I doubt the protestor is. .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107

 

 

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Bloody PRs – Sunday Review-06/10/13

As the saying goes ” PRs … can’t live with them….. can’t beat them to death with a brick ”

In our world of Press Photography the roles of PR and Press Officer have mutated into one and as such when I refer to PRs I include the latter species too.  They are the front-line. They are the barrier between us photographers and the ‘talent’.  They exist to mediate between said ‘talent’ and the demanding hordes of unwashed ‘snappers’.  Heaven forbid that the unwashed should ever actually get to communicate with the ‘talent’ one on one. That would never do. Why ?  Well, maybe because the ‘talent’ would realise that they didn’t actually need to pay for these minders at all.

There are two types of PR.  There are good ones and there are dreadful ones.  It only takes the shortest of exposure to categorise one when you meet them.

The good ones talk to you as an adult addressing a fellow adult.  They defer to the idea that as a professional you understand the requirements of your job.  They ask what you require and try their hardest to give you it on the basis that they’ve invited you to the event because they want the publicity for their subject.  As a newspaper photographer my role is to get my photographs published in my newspaper.  I know this seems like I’m stating the bloody obvious but sometimes you have to wonder whether the vast majority of PRs actually understand that fact.

A good PR knows I want to get my photos published.  A good PR also wants me to get my photos published.

Nobody says they have to fawn over you.  All they need to do is be receptive to ideas and if possible facilitate those ideas remembering that out of the two of us I am the expert. A good PR will learn very quickly what photographers need to get a publication and will tailor the photo-call to make this more likely.  Some of the best PR companies actually involve a photographer in the development phase of the concept.  Crazy I know but some actually realise that to organise a photo-op it might be useful to take advice from someone who actually photographs.  Spooky.

I have the good fortune to deal with more than my fair share of good PRs. The people at Christies and Sotheby’s spring immediately to mind as do the people at Freuds that I’ve dealt with. One quite senior PR at Freuds once explained to me that he told newbies that the best thing they could do was to get the photographers onside, “get them to be your mate” was his exact phrase.

All seems to make sense does it not?

To summarise:

The photographer specialises in getting his/her picture published. The PR wants publicity for their event in the form of a picture published. That’s why they invite you and that’s why when you get there you come up with suggestions and often end up lying on your stomach on some filthy London street trying to get an eye catching image that will publish. When that image publishes, you the photographer are happy as are the PR and the PR’s boss. Everything is that simple.

Apparently not.

I’d love to know how this simple teaching scenario falls apart between PR school and actual practice in the real world and I think I may have spotted the solution. The fact is there is no such thing as a PR school.

This is where the second type of PR raises their ugly often cheap-suited head.

The bad PR sees their role not as a facilitator but as a barrier.

When they lower themselves to invite you to an event they will greet you with (if you’re lucky) disdain or more likely disgust. They (despite their visual illiteracy) will tell you what ‘THE picture is’. ‘THE picture’ is the idea that four or more PRs with no knowledge of photography came up with in a meeting at Carluccios’ the night before the photo-call.

The bad PR will do their best to make you feel unwelcome. They will often refuse entry to the event until a set time, leaving you stood outside on the street like an unwanted bag of jumble.

When you realise that ‘THE picture’ is never going to publish in a month of Sundays and you try in your foolish professionalism to try and rescue the said photo-call they will either dismiss you or develop sudden complete deafness. The very worst ones will threaten to have you removed (basically for trying to help them) if you suggest trying something else that might give the photograph a fighting chance of publishing.

When you move to the even darker realm of Political party PR’s the bar lowers even further.

The bad Political PR knows everything better than you.

They know where you should stand. They know where you should sit or kneel at conference. They employ the dreaded white tape lines that must never be crossed on pain of death.

Their minions are constantly at your ear telling you to move. They are pulling you or pushing you or poking you at every turn. They are known to block photographers and have been seen on many occasions actually putting their hands over lenses. Watch the footage of Ed Miliband being egged in Walworth, almost the first reaction was to stop it being recorded not to stop more eggs raining in.  As an aside, one of the PRs at that incident was trying to blame it all on a photographer.  Apparently the ‘egger’ had been seen talking to one before the incident. I can well believe that.  Strangely enough members of the public often ask the nearest person “what’s going on?” so what if that person has a camera it certainly does not implicate them in the incident.

This fantasy was used as an excuse at the conference in Brighton for the press office refusing to tell accredited photographers that Ed Miliband was going to stand on a table in a street and do a Q & A session with the public (more like carefully picked party members and SOME public) as a curtain raiser .

The bad Political PR will lie to your face. When you ask if there is any chance of a facility to do the Leader writing his speech he will say “no that’s not happening” …  then an hour later the pictures miraculously appear.

I guess it’s all about control and trust. They don’t trust us (well most of us) because they can’t control us (well most of us).  But it’s all based on paranoia.  They’ve seen Malcolm in The Thick of It and they think that’s the way to act.  They’ve lost sight of the basic lesson. They want publicity and we can provide it.  And that’s the nub of the problem in this particular area.  The thing is Political PRs don’t just want publicity.  They want their own idea of publicity.  But that is by definition propaganda not publicity and we aren’t there to help them with propaganda.  PR and Journalism are two different things.  Publicising a celebrity’s new book to fill some space in the paper is one thing but covering politics is different that is journalism.  The best political photographs of the last two decades, whilst I’ve been working for The Telegraph, were taken by my colleague Martin Argles of The Guardian.  They were behind the scenes from the last election and culminated in a series from inside Downing Street when Gordon and his team finally realised their time was up.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/gallery/2010/may/12/gordon-brown-labourleadership

Classic reportage, journalism, and a far cry from stunted up photographs of Ed or Dave ‘caught’ laughing with their family.  There was one stage when photographers were told they couldn’t use flash with Dave because it ruined the effect of spontaneity.  Spontaneity at an orchestrated event?  How we laughed at that one.

So where does it all go wrong.  At what point in PR school do the bad ones drop out.  Do they do a different syllabus to the good ones ?  Is it a different examining board?

Oh I forgot they don’t have a school do they.

So how does it happen.  Who in their infinite wisdom tells the bad PRs that their way of operating is acceptable?  It’s a mystery. We try again and again to tell them the error of their ways but it’s too late by the time we meet them.  By the time they meet us they are less likely to listen to reason than a Cyberman.

I may have been in this job since before some of them started school but the bad PRs are still the experts.

And one last thing on this subject . One last cast iron indicator of what type of PR you are dealing with. The bad PR will call you a snapper.

Here are a few pix I’ve taken over the last month or two.  Some of them with the help of good PRs and some despite the efforts of the bad ones.  Some without the influence of either … astonishingly the world does keep on revolving without either kind.

This is David Cameron trying to sneak out the back of Downing Street on his way to Chequers. This was the Friday after he’d been humiliated in the House of Commons over his attempt to initiate attacks on Syria over alleged chemical weapons use.  His press officers had spent ages getting the cars at the back to move back and forth to make sure nobody could see him leaving. Peter Macdiarmid had got him on a long lens walking to the car despite their efforts.  I got him in it.  It was a bit quick.  It’s nice when you beat them. Bad PRs.

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107This is the set (excuse the indulgence of converting to black and white) from my assignment to Paris to show ‘Roma” gypsies begging and in some cases robbing tourists in the French capital. The worry is that they will all move to the UK.  None we spoke to were in the least bit interested in swapping Paris for Croydon.  No PRs.

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107 .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107 .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107 .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107 .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107

DTEMDOG3Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly Come Dancing, a thoroughly nice fella with an equally nice PR.  There had been an administrative cock up and we had turned up two hours late for the shoot.  No histrionics they just went for lunch and met me in a nearby pub.

Very good PR.

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107 .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107

Labour party conference. I think I’ve said enough about that.  Only need to add that Damien McBride turned up to rain on their parade.  BBC  Newsnight had an exclusive with him so they tried to keep him under wraps.  The chap driving the car is a Newsnight cameraman.  We had the ridiculous situation where the car was surrounded but the driver being one of us and not wanting a death on his hands drove out of the hotel as slowly as possible.  My mate Alan Davidson was at one point prostrate on the bonnet, feet off the ground shooting through the windscreen.  Bad PRs.

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107 .COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107And a couple where the PRs left me alone ….COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107Not sure which category this one comes into. This is Mr Bill Marriott, the founder and executive chairman of the Marriott hotel chain. A very nice chap with a fearsome american PR lady. I actually liked her a lot and she left me alone to take pix where I wanted in the penthouse apartment of one of his hotels in London. She only lost points for asking me to stop taking pix during the interview. Fair enough if I’d been hosing it down with lights popping every second but I was shooting on the long end of my 70-200 on available light. He barely noticed I was there but she still felt the need to stop me. PR of both sorts..COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulhollandeddie_mulholland@hotmail.com00447831 257107This was the “Beats Half Marathon” in Greenwich park. The PRs for this were some of the nicest I’ve met for quite a long time. They provided bacon rolls and drinks and were totally organised. I was taken to the start where the “talent” would be brought to be photographed starting the race. Only problem was that nobody had told the “talent” about this and they never turned up. They were very apologetic and pointed out the vantage point for the picture below. It never published but 10 out of 10 for effort. Good PRs.

.COPYRIGHT © Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 00447831 257107

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Sunday Review-07.07.13

Marvelous Murray did it.  I’ve been photographing the Wimbledon Tennis Championship for some time now and it was all leading up to the afternoon of 7.7.13 in SW19.  The only thing that bettered the weather was the result.  A straight sets victory over Novak Djokovic is no easy thing under any circumstances, but under the gaze of an entire nation deprived of victory since Fred Perry in 1936 it was nothing short of Herculean.  Andy Murray has had the ability for this win for some time but it is only since he has come under the wing of Ivan Lendl (who never won Wimbledon) that he has seemed to have that little bit extra to make it over the final hump.  I remember walking to the car park with The Independent’s David Ashdown last year and saying to him “I bet you never thought you’d see that?” when Murray made it through the semi.  There was only one way to better that result and he did it.

Due to demand, it is only one photographer per publication allowed on court at any one time. The shooting positions are split between five areas. The most sought after spot is the East Pit which is a trench on the opposite side to the umpire.  There are 40 odd seats there, the British newspapers were given six of them spread out along the length of the trench.  We had two seats in the West Pit situated behind the umpire and the players’ chairs, which restrict the view of the tennis, but are perfect to watch for reaction shots of the celebrities in the Royal Box and the players’ families and (girl)friends.  We had one more seat where the Chelsea Pensioners sit, near the players’ entrance/exit, and one more up high in the commentary box in the roof of Centre Court.  The other prime position is also an elevated one by the scoreboard, under the Royal Box, known as Platform B.  We had two seats on that too.

We collected our tickets and did a draw to see who went where.  After a bit of negotiating and haggling we all had our spots.  I was going to be in seat 32 East Pit.  My mate Murray Sanders from The Daily Mail had been in that seat for the Mens’ semis on Friday and looking at his pictures I felt it was a good spot for the final.  I got lucky and drew that seat.  I’d mentioned to Murray that I wanted that spot and he was nearly as pleased as me when I got it.

I normally use three cameras for tennis.  A D3 and 300mm f2.8, D3 and 600mm f4 and a D3s with 70-200mm f2.8.  I carry a 24-70mm f2.8 in a pouch with  1.7x and 2x converters.  I also had a Speedlight and Quantum Turbo on this occasion for the picture of the winner with the cup, or as it’s known the Potshot.  The other vital bits of kit on this occasion were factor 30 sun block, a hat and lots of water.

The seat you get dictates which lenses you use for different parts of the match.  My position was such that all the action at my end of the trench was perfect on the 70-200.  Action at the other end was on the 300.  I swapped my 600mm for a 500mm at Nikon.  My lens is an old version and weighs about three times as much as the 500.

I wandered over, with Cavan Pawson (Evening Standard) at around 1.40PM.  2PM was the start time and settled down for the match. There is a little shelf in front of the seats where you can dump your bits and bobs.  Space is at a premium on Mens’ Final day so it was a surprise to find I had an empty seat on either side of me which stayed that way till the final set.  Maybe the agencies weren’t that interested in Andy Murray.

Heathcliff O’Malley, my fellow Telegraph photographer was watching everything else apart from Centre Court.  He had the onerous task of keeping an eye on Henman Hill (Murray Mount surely) and was lined up to shoot the picture of the winner and trophy on the outer balcony of Centre Court.  We were hoping the balcony shot would be Andy with his girlfriend Kim Sears (a favourite of all the Brit papers) and the trophy.  If it had been it would have knocked all the Centre Court stuff off the front of every British newspaper. It didn’t happen, but if it had …

It was roasting hot.  The crowd were buzzing.  I was almost thinking it would be easier if Djokovic won because the pressure would be off.

The last time I heard a roar like the one Murray got was in The Velodrome when Chris Hoy took to the track during last year’s Olympics.

It was electric.  Murray played a blinder, the way he’s always been able to.  His head was right and we got to 3 match points.  It went to deuce.  Maybe Djokovic could make a big come back, you can never write him off.

Murray won.  He was at the far end from me and when he won he turned his back on all of us and faced the scoreboard.  I don’t think he was being awkward I just think he didn’t know what to do.  Apparently Chris Hoy was sitting in that corner.  Either way, when he did turn there was an avalanche of pictures.

I shot match-point on the 70-200 then changed to the 500mm, then back to the zoom and then the 300mm…  I was all over the place, lens wise it was an ‘Indecisive Moment’ …  I don’t think I missed too much.

Lots and lots of pictures but no real ‘moment’.  The best potential was when he climbed up to the players’ family box to celebrate with his girlfriend, trainers and family.  If he had stopped and stood on the wall in the middle of all the spectators and given it a big roar and double fist punch we’d have had an amazing finale.  He didn’t.

The photographers who had armbands to go on court (another draw) and photograph the presentation went on court and the rest of us waited in the pit to see what we would get as he walked around with the trophy.  I watched him through the 500 as he sat in his chair waiting to be called for the presentation and saw his changing expressions… mostly disbelief… or maybe shock.  He seemed to be somewhere between ecstasy and confusion.

He got the trophy and I photographed him holding it aloft.  It was the picture we used on the front of The Daily telegraph.  He held it and kissed it for the privileged few on court then paraded it around the court.  My position never got a kiss but I didn’t think that was ‘the’ picture anyway.  The powers that be wanted what I’d sent, the Picture Desk said it was the only one amongst thousands they’d seen that showed him actually grinning like he was really totally ecstatic to have won.  It was a piece of history and I’m chuffed it was what they wanted and what they used.

A Brit winning for the first time since 1977.  A Brit man winning for the first time in 77 years, on the 7th of the 7th and only 7 days difference in age between Murray and Djokovic.  I just thank God it didn’t take 7 hours.

My favourite picture is one of the trophy showing the last British male winner’s name and date ‘Fred Perry 1936’ on the trophy with Andy’s face reflected.

I’ve also included an early Murray picture …  I wonder if you can spot it:

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DTEM

Check out my EyeEm versions of some of these and others at eyeem @edmulh or on Twitter https://twitter.com/eddiemulh

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The Death of Baroness Thatcher-Sunday Review

April was one of those months. They come along occasionally. There we all were ambling along waiting for the temperature to rise above 10 degrees so we could go to St James’ Park and photograph flowers or sunbathers, anything to indicate the end of another depressing British winter. It was my first day back at work after an Easter break refereeing the Mulholland clan’s daily bouts. I was covering the Royal Academy (RA) Summer show, or rather the queues of artists with their works early on the first morning of submissions. A nice gentle return, just what I needed. The first person I spoke to that day was a PR from the RA. I was stood across the road from the queue when she came running over brandishing the ubiquitous clipboard and demanding I filled a form in to allow me to take pictures. I asked her if they were allowing us in to photograph the works being submitted and was told ‘no’. I then informed her that I wouldn’t need to sign any forms then would I since I was in a public area that had nothing to do with her or her form. The pictures were pretty dire as was the job. Apparently this is a hardy annual but in 20 years at The Daily Telegraph I’ve never done it. I won’t be rushing to do it again either. Apparently the queue normally stretches right around the building. It didn’t on that day.

I edited the slim pickings and sent in on the FTP.

My next port of call was auction house Bonham’s who were promoting a sale of photographic prints by Mark Gerson who captured a rare image of W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, Ted Hughes, Stephen Spender and Louis MacNeice . Mark (92) was attending and was a fascinating man to meet. His portraits were excellent. We tired him out a little, always “one more”  but left him in good spirits. I headed over to Westminster to edit.

The call came in at about midday “Baroness Thatcher has died, get over to her house.” Poor old Mark, he was never going to get in the paper now.

When something big like this drops it’s a combination of panic and planning. The paper was pretty much written already. We’d need members of the family, Mark or Carol Thatcher, but they were out of the country. With husband Dennis having passed away some years ago there was not a lot to do. We soon found out that she had died at The Ritz where she had been living since Christmas. A second pack began arriving there, those of us at the house waited as more and more TV crews turned up. Nothing to film but they have to do their ‘pieces to camera’ somewhere. We didn’t have to wait too long till people began turning up with floral tributes. There was a bit of a frenzy when each bunch turned up but I was finding it difficult to believe any room would be left in any of the papers for these pictures. The Obituary articles would fill page after page, especially in The Telegraph. When one passerby deposited a pint of milk on the doorstep as a reference to her nickname when she ran The Department for Education “Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher” we guessed that definitely would never publish.

Her body was removed from The Ritz just after midnight. We would be watching the house for the next few days until her children had been accounted for and final touches would be made to the plans for covering her funeral.

I’d been involved about two years ago in a walk through to assess positions for the funeral with people from the cabinet office and representatives from the BBC,  ITV,  the wire services and The NPA (Newspaper Publishers Association). The walk through had only gone as far as St Clement Danes (where Baroness Thatcher was transferred to the gun carriage). Three days after her death I was roped into a similar meeting at St Paul’s to discuss the business end of the event, the service at the Cathedral. Representing all the newspapers and wire agencies, in fact all the reps of still photography amounted to three people. The BBC had over twenty there. ITV who were not even going live had about ten people present. Parachuted in at the eleventh hour and expecting to have some say in where Photographers should be was a guaranteed recipe for disappointment .

There is a statue surrounded by a fence opposite the entrance to St Paul’s. It’s a statue of Queen Anne (QAS). I’ve worked for The Telegraph for 20 years, but I’ve been in this job for about 27 years. I know for a fact that many a year ago I’ve shot events at St Paul’s from inside the fence on the QAS. The meeting was told there was NO position for anybody for the arrivals of Baroness Thatcher at the QAS. The reason given was that the size of the entourage with a gun-carriage etc meant there was simply no room. I suggested we could position at least 10 photographers behind the fence. The reps from The City of London who are in charge of the statue said no. I said we’d done it before . They said no that had never happened. The main PR from ST Paul’s agreed it had never happened. I said I remembered being in there and was told no it had never happened. I asked if the ‘nobody by the QAS rule’ applied to everyone and was told it did. A facility at the QAS was made for the coffin leaving, but I was told NOBODY would be there for the arrivals.

If you look carefully at footage or photographs from the day you can see that there was a tiny platform built on the statue inside the fence . The BBC were allowed in there. You can go along to all the meetings you like, but if you are lied to there is not much you can do. The BBC has an entire department to organise these events we have 2 or 3 people working part time looking after stills. It’s of no interest that stills have the lasting effect that footage never will, TV rules.

Despite all this there were some very good positions and some excellent pictures produced.

The positions were put around to all the desks and they were asked to bid for where they wanted to be. I suggested to my desk that the best two to bid for were the’ Triforium’ (an elevated position over the West door looking down at the whole procession on Ludgate Hill) and The Whispering Gallery inside the cathedral looking down on the service. I knew the Triforium was the best spot. We never got it. It went to Dave Crump from the Daily Mail and he did a great job of it. It was The Telegraph’s whole front page. I got The  Whispering Gallery. It wasn’t the front but it was a double page spread . A double page spread in a broadsheet. The biggest picture I’ve ever had published.

The logistics on big jobs like this are always the things that frighten me most. The roads get shut down at 7am, so despite having a ‘report time’ of 9am you still have to get to the venue at 6.30 am at the latest.

When it’s a big job you tend to have a bit of a restless night . You have to be up at 5am so you set your alarm. Then you wake up every half an hour to see how long you have left to sleep. The first ring of the alarm goes and you’re vertical… I’d checked all the batteries and arranged my kit. I’d added a few pieces to my normal kit and dumped some other bits, like flash guns ( though I left one in the bag just in case). I’d been at The Palace of Westminster the day before covering the arrival of Baroness Thatcher’s coffin at The House of Lords. I’d shot that and filed, then done a very poor job of her family arriving and leaving and filed that too. All the cards I’d shot on where in the pocket of my Barbour that I use every day for work. When I arrived at St Paul’s the following morning I was suited and booted. I’d spotted a gaggle of colleagues across the road from the car-park and parked up, decanted my gear and went to join them. I’d had a nagging feeling since walking out the house that I’d forgotten something. As I walked out of the car-park it came to me. All my memory cards were in my coat hanging on my banister. Luckily I had some spare but old 4GB cards in my bag and my mate Murray Sanders from The Daily Mail found two 8GB ones to tide me over. It wasn’t a disaster but it was a stupid mistake.

Tea and sandwiches later I was in position with top bloke Gareth Fuller from The Press Association in The Whispering Gallery. We had some great handlers from St Paul’s and got some great shots. I sent from the gallery on my brand new EE 4G mifi and the files flew away, I sent 17 pictures during the service and another 18 after . As the coffin left our line of sight on the way out we heaved a sigh of relief. All had run to plan and neither Gareth or I had dropped anything on the congregation below. Result.

A couple of other jobs finished the month off including a strange insect photo-call at The Wellcome Institute, a meeting with Barbara Windsor and Bruce Forsyth and a rota with Prince Harry in Nottingham but the month without doubt belonged to Maggie.

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Iraq-Unembedded-Sunday Review 10 years on.

Difficult to believe it was ten years ago. I got a phone call whilst on a job at The High Court in The Strand. Did I want to go to Iraq ? It was Thursday and I had to leave on Sunday. In seven days time the deadline for Iraq was going to be up and the war was going to start. I had to get my kit together. My G3 Mac didn’t have connectivity for a Satellite Phone so I had to swap with one of the other Telegraph Photographers. I had to get a Satellite phone and get it working . I had to pick up a Nuclear/Biological/Chemical (NBC) warfare suit. I had to tell Mrs M. The whole process of travelling to the zone took over every moment of my life.

The call had come quite late. Most newspapers already had people in position. Some were in Baghdad some had been embedded with British forces and there was also a contingent languishing in Kuwait, this was where I was heading to. Most of them had been out there for weeks covering the build up of troops and preparing to follow them into Iraq when the invasion happened. We’d had a two man team in place but at the last minute our photographer had been moved to an embedded position. There was nobody left to ask so they asked me. I’ve always believed that with jobs like this you should wait to be asked mainly because then you go on ‘your’ terms. If you chomp at the bit you end up going on someone else’s terms. The problem with this tactic is that people get the impression you don’t actually want to go. To be honest I’m not sure even now if I really wanted to go, but as Mrs M pointed out I’d be a bloody nightmare if I didn’t.

Telegraph journalist Patrick Bishop was awaiting my arrival, he’d hired a diesel Toyota Landcruiser and filled it with supplies and kit. All I had to do was land in Kuwait, get accredited with NATO and link up with Patrick. Simple enough you’d think but you’d be wrong. Kuwait City is very near to the Iraq border and since Gulf War 1 there had been a ‘De-militarised Zone’ (DMZ) in place between the two countries. There is a main motorway that runs from the city straight into Iraq. However this road has police checkpoints on it and the police didn’t want a load of journalists wandering around near the border. Whilst I was preparing to leave London Patrick had organised a meeting with all our British colleagues and had suggested a plan. He believed, and Evening Standard journalist Keith Dovecants who was teamed up with my mate photographer Cavan Pawson agreed with him that as the deadline drew nearer it would become increasingly difficult to move in and out of the city. His plan was to head out towards the DMZ sooner rather than later. He figured the Police would start to lock-down access and that once they did so everyone would be stuck in Kuwait City. It was a good idea but it did mean leaving the comfort of the hotel a lot earlier than most considered necessary. The other problem was that I wasn’t with him yet. How, if he had the vehicle, was I supposed to hook up with him when he was hiding out in the countryside ? He couldn’t wait because he didn’t want to be stranded in the city. Patrick left on Sunday whilst I was in the air. Keith and Cavan went along in their 4×4 too. The other British press fellows decided to wait a while longer.

Unbeknownst to me we had another reporter in the area. Jack Fairweather who was also in hiding beyond the Police checkpoints. Jack got sent back to Kuwait City to collect me. He wasn’t very happy. The Police had began stopping non military vehicles and it was touch and go. We waited on the hard shoulder then tagged onto a convoy of Landrovers. Nobody batted an eye as we swept past the checkpoint. We headed to a farm where the others were and that was it. I was there. I think it was an olive farm. There were rows upon rows of high bushes and the two cars were hidden from the road. Cavan was digging a hole. A ‘Shell Scrape’. Somewhere to dive if we came under attack. I found this a little alarming.

We stayed on ‘Abdali Farm’ for one night. Someone found us there the next night and we had to do a runner. We were whizzing around where we were not meant to be. There were only Police and military on the roads we were certain we were going to get busted back to Kuwait City unless we found somewhere to hide. We spotted a load of cars parked just off the main road and thought we could hide amongst them. We drove into the car park and only when we were in the middle did we realise all the cars were police cars. We left very quickly. If we carried on like this we would definitely get caught. We pulled off the road into a complex of buildings which we established was some kind of chicken factory. There was nobody about and it offered some cover from the road so we settled in. The next morning when the workers turned up we had to re-think. They weren’t very happy. Then something strange happened. A very authoritative chap turned up. The others were garbling away to him but he just waved them off. He came over and introduced himself. He was the owner of the factory and felt obliged to help us. He got us to follow him in convoy to his house were he told us we could have showers and relax whilst he got someone to make us some food. Sounds very strange but it’s not really. Hospitality is a very important thing to Muslims. As the afternoon slid into evening we were fed and comfortable. He’d allowed us to set up camp in his lounge and we were safe in the knowledge that we wouldn’t be found here. We were also right up by the DMZ and it was Thursday night . The deadline was about to run out and we were curious whether the bombardment would be visible.

Our host turned out to be Kuwait’s version of Colonel Sanders with stores throughout the whole country. He was and hopefully still is a top bloke.

As the deadline passed the bombardment started. Keith and Patrick using their image intensifier binoculars started waxing lyrical about the night sky being lit up by it all. Cavan and I did a four minute exposure on our cameras and still couldn’t see a thing. We tried to explain to them that you couldn’t say the sky was lighting up when you were using those binoculars but they wouldn’t listen.

Keith and Patrick had retired to their sleeping bags in the lounge and Cav and I were outside. I think I was having a smoke. You could still hear the bombing but it all sounded like it was outgoing.

Just to interrupt the narrative for a moment it’s important to point out something about the whole weapons of mass destruction issue. Before “sexing up the dossier” entered our lexicon it was generally believed that Saddam did indeed posses chemical and biological weapons which he was going to use on us when we invaded. We believed it was going to happen. We’d been on courses to teach us what to do when we came under ‘Gas’ attack. We were carrying drugs to be injected if nerve gas was suspected. The most important lesson was speed. You had to get into your NBC suit and get your mask on pronto or you were going to die a very painful death with melting skin that would make Freddy Kruger look like Brad Pitt. If you thought you’d got a whiff of gas you immediately screamed “GAS GAS GAS” this warned those around you and also expelled the possibly contaminated air that was in your lungs. You didn’t breath again until the mask was on. Then you got your suit on. You always carried your mask and you were never too far away from your suit.

Anyway back to Colonel Sanders and  KFC.

So there was I listening to not too distant bombs heading out when Cav who was stood on a little mound nearby called me over “Ed..” he said “Can you smell something funny..?” “GAS GAS GAS” was what I was expecting. We then heard the whistle of a shell (probably outgoing) and hit the panic button. All hell broke loose. We were all running around getting our kit on and reloading stuff into the cars to make a getaway. We thought we were under gas attack. We must’ve looked a right bunch of Charlies, stomping around our host’s lounge all dressed in masks and NBC suits as we bundled kit into bags. He just watched us. He didn’t have a mask or a suit. We wanted him to come with us but he explained he had workers to look after. We left him to it and screeched away from his house back towards Kuwait City. We planned to stay this side of the police but not quite as close to the border just to be on the safe side. We finished the night in a lay-by next to a mini-mart. The following day we stayed moving, checking out some of the smaller roads that went over the border. We got a very distant glimpse of some tanks firing into Iraq but it was slim pickings. We did however bump into an MOD Press Officer who was very surprised to see us. He asked us to meet up with him later and Patrick smelled a rat. We disappeared and hid with the vehicles behind some buildings, we figured that our ‘friend’ was off to get reinforcements and that he’d be sending us back to Kuwait City . We spent Friday night back at the lay-by. The following morning ‘Glenn’ turned up.

Glenn was an Aussie who told us he managed a farm up near the DMZ. He suggested we go with him to the farm because we were too in the open and likely to get lifted. He offered us food and showers ( I was starting to worry that the Lynx deodorant really wasn’t up to the job in hand). He said he was interested in getting over the border and knew some routes in, could he hitch a ride. It was all a bit strange. We were convinced he must be a spook or something. So late on the Saturday morning with our new friend we went sniffing around some back roads.We did the classic manouvre of tagging onto the back of a convoy which took us through the sand with visibility diminishing behind the clouds thrown up by all the trucks. The next thing we knew there was a sign saying welcome to Iraq and we were in.

We were convinced that we’d be propping up the bar at the Basra Sheraton that evening. We’d even tried calling it to book rooms. Our two car convoy got on the main highway and we stopped now and then to take a few frames of the military pressing into the country. We saw some Iraqi soldiers being held behind barbed wire. We saw some injured civilians and we saw lots of tanks. We were heading on the main road into Basra with Keith and Cav leading. We were having to drive very carefully there was shrapnel all over the tarmac. We reached a clearer part of the road and sped up. Then, for no apparent reason and much to the annoyance of Patrick, Keith slowed down and pulled off the road we stopped behind them. Patrick jumped out demanding to know why we’d stopped, Keith just answered “It doesn’t feel right”. It was then that we realised we hadn’t seen any NATO troops for ages. We found out later that this had been the road Terry Lloyd had been killed on that same day.

As darkness approached we needed somewhere safe to bed down, we’d got separated from Cav and Keith as we tried find the right direction to head in. There was still a lot of fighting going on and we didn’t want to get kidnapped or worse. The British Army came to the rescue. The Royal Logistics Corp were setting up a base and they let us in . We found a spot and to our delight Cav and Keith had got there ahead of us. Cav told me Dan Chung from The Guardian was embedded with the Corp as was a team from The Press Association. Jeremy Thompson and his crew from Sky were set up here too.

We had a base but we stuck with our sleeping arrangements. We slept in the cars taking turns between the two vehicles to put Glenn up. Patrick Bishop is a top fella and he’s the only man I’ve ever spent that much time in that close proximity to. We were a bit of an odd couple and I can’t say we didn’t have the occasional word…mainly wind related, but sleeping eating and working with someone 24/7 for a month is a hell of a test, especially when you sleep only a foot apart. Cav and Keith were having the same kind of relationship. Cav and I did both feel like schoolboys with our grown ups telling us what to do, but to be fair they’d both done a lot more of this than us. On day one we came across some burnt out tanks and APC’s with shed loads of rockets and other ordinance. We hadn’t taken a picture worth sending yet so we went to town. We climbed all over the place. It was only when Keith and Patrick started shouting like mad at us about booby-traps that we realised how stupid we’d been. We could’ve been blown to pieces, it was really really stupid.

For the first couple of days we were finding our feet and never really got any nearer to the Basra Sheraton. The main road to the town was blocked. Glenn kept on disappearing. Cav and I did discover something though. Our corner of The British Army in Iraq was also an evacuation point for casualties. The injured were brought in by road and flown out from our base by helicopter. When we heard one coming in we would take a wander down to the landing zone and take some pictures. The first time we did it someone turned up and told us we couldn’t. Apparently embedded journalists were not allowed to take pictures there. We explained we weren’t embedded and they said “Oh, OK go ahead then”. Dan was with us and he was embedded, he couldn’t take any pictures, he had to just watch us work.

We were all parked up together in a clearing, us, Sky and the embeds. It was right next to an enormous hole in the ground, big enough to fit a bus in. It was a well with a path running round the inside of the wall, apparently for people to walk their donkeys down to collect water. It made a great ‘shell scrape’ but you wouldn’t want to fall down it during the night if you went out for a pee.

Our toilet was another hole in the ground. If you had a poo you buried it. As a few more journalists, French, Italian, American and others turned up and as the army settled into it’s camp a new toilet regime came in. After the French (allegedly) started pooing in the Donkey well a missive went out. We now had to poo into a bag and then, wait for it, hand the bag over to one of the soldiers who had been given the task of collecting the bags piling them up and at the end of each day burning the pile. Christ knows what you had to do to upset the powers that be enough to be given that duty, but it truly was a shit job.When they got a bit more established the army brought in their ‘Thunderboxes’. If you can imagine a box a bit like a central casting pirate’s treasure chest but with an arse sized hole cut in the lid and no bottom then you’ll be in the right ballpark. The box is set up with some tarpaulin staked out around it like a windbreak on a British beach. They dig a deep trench and place the box over it. When it piles up underneath they move the box further along the trench, burying as they go. One morning Dan was using the facility when the wind picked up and tore the tarpaulin down whilst a queue of squaddies watched. I still don’t know why he told us about it because we never let him forget about it.

One of the other advantages (apart from the fantastic bathroom facilities) of being under the wing of the army was that they had a far more sophisticated attack warning system. We could stop relying on Cav saying he’d smelt something strange, which, considering our diet, was all the time. Problem was they were a lot quicker to sound the siren so we were forever getting in and out of our NBC suits and masks. Glenn was living with Patrick and I now and he had no kit like this. The alarm went off one night and Patrick and I got kitted up. Glenn was sat in the back just looking at us. We tried to scavenge some kit for him but we never really managed to. He sloped off after a couple of days and the next we saw of him he had got a contract to drive water tankers into Basra. This was before it had fallen. He was getting further in than the British Army. It just enforced our idea he was a spook. He did however have an official license for this work which allowed him back and forth over the border back to Kuwait and he repaid our lift by bringing us occasional supplies. We of course did not have the freedom to go back and forth and there were no shops to buy food. We ran down to the minimum. We could always get water from our army friends as we could fuel. It was a case of swapping a go on the sat-phone for what we needed. This was the main reason why Patrick had spent so long getting a diesel vehicle. With Kuwait being an oil rich country there is really no need for diesel cars. Diesel is economical but when fuel is cheaper than water economy is not a consideration. Patrick knew the army runs on diesel and if we were going to get re-fills when our reserves ran out we needed a diesel car. When Glenn’s re-supplies ran out we were back to begging food off the army or off our embedded colleagues. It’s the only time in my life I’ve been hungry and it wasn’t nice. We had a couple of days when we had nothing to cook. We had biscuits but not much else. The feeling stays in my mind to this day. I remember once when we’d not had anything hot for two days when I was elected to cadge some ration packs off Dan. Dan wasn’t having a great time photographically, his minders were refusing to take him off the base without an armoured vehicle. He kept pointing us out and saying we didn’t have an armoured car and were doing fine but the army wasn’t taking chances with its embeds. I went to Dan to get some ration packs. I’ve known Dan for years and we got chatting. He was telling me about the discussions he’d had with his desk that day but all I could think about was food. I remember trying to end the conversation and get back to him giving us some of his ration packs … all I could think about was eating. He kept us fed. Thanks Dan. On the subject of food one incident always sticks in my head. It was after a Glenn re-supply but towards the end of what he’d brought us. Cav and I shared a tin of Fray Bentos corned beef  and a tin of beans. We had half each and I can remember Cav finishing his plate and all he said was “that was ‘andsome”. If anyone ever asks me to name the best meal in my life it is that one. Glenn’s supplies came in handy for other things too. Patrick, Keith and Jeremy from Sky all old hands at this sort of thing made friends with the Commanding Officer (CO) at the base we were staying on. He knew we weren’t meant to be there but he loved having the ear of respected journalists that he’d actually heard of. He also liked the strawberries and bananas that he got when Glenn re supplied us. He also seemed to take offence when our MOD Press Officer (that we’d bumped into by the DMZ) came calling with a plan to relocate us all back to Kuwait. He called us all into his tent and explained that the following day we should make ourselves scarce from sunrise to sunset. We could come back just before nightfall. We did as we were told. By this time a few other journalists (no Brits) had turned up and set up tents in our clearing. These journalists were rounded up by the MOD and taken back to Kuwait. We went back to a much quieter base that evening. The Army later moved to the old Basra airport and we moved with them. The MOD chap was still looking for us and by all accounts getting angrier and angrier. The C.O gave us some camouflage netting to hide our cars … not from Iraqis but from the MOD chap.

The alarms still went off on a regular basis. One night the bells went off and Patrick and I got suited up in the Toyota. We sat there in our masks for about thirty minutes. We never heard the ‘All Clear Bell’. Eventually Patrick lost his temper and took his off  “I’d rather  die” was his refrain. I was less brave. He sent me out to find out if the all clear had in fact been sounded. Dan’s car was nearby. You have to bear in mind that when it went dark you went to bed. There was no light whatsoever allowed unless you had a small red reading light. We had torches but you got massively bollocked if you shed any light after sundown. When it got light you got up. Anyway I wandered over to Dan’s 4×4, he had the luxury of sleeping in his own car by himself. It was pitch dark and I looked in his window to see if he was suited up. He was sat there with his head-torch on eating his dinner. I knocked on the window and he turned towards me. His torch lit up a gas-masked face at his window and he went into meltdown. His dinner went all over his face and his windscreen as he scrambled for his Gas mask. I was knocking shouting in a mask muffled voice “ISSTHEALLCLEARBINCALLEDDAN”. Oh how we laughed.

Photographically Cav and I were doing well. We’d found a route to a bridge into Basra. It was the main drag and people were fleeing the fighting over it. We started to get our pictures and they started to publish. The other chaps from the Kuwait camp were stuck on the wrong side of the border. Keith and Patrick had been right, the police had slammed the checkpoints down and they couldn’t get through whilst we were publishing. They did get through eventually but we’d definitely stole a march on them.

The bridge was called Bridge 4. One day I was joined on it by Odd Anderson a colleague from AFP. We wandered over the bridge with some other photographers. The general rule was you went as far as the last British tank. They didn’t stop you going further but it really wasn’t a good idea. A team from The Times and The Daily Mail had driven past and got their cars shot up.Mostly it was best to stay the other side. On this occasion we got mortared. I was further up than I’d been before with Odd and a few other photographers. In the middle of the road, maybe twenty yards away, there was a dull thud and some mud got thrown up. The mid ground between the two carriageways was muddy beyond belief. It had rained heavily, so much so we’d done a weather picture in the base the day before. Thankfully the mud soaked up the explosion. To be honest I didn’t have a clue what had just happened. I stood there thinking “what the Feck was that?” People started diving for cover. I was next to a young Swiss photographer and we were near the back of a British Army Warrior armoured vehicle. We both jumped in the Warrior and we both got kicked out. The Irish Guards were in there and I actually remember shouting at them that I was Irish. Another round landed in the mud. I jumped into the ditch at the side of the road with my new Swiss mate. I was still confused but started to take pictures of the people in the ditch. It published on the front next day. My Swiss friend’s friend, who turned out to be a founder of the Vll Photo-agency Antonin Kratochvil, arrived with a car and we jumped in and got the hell out of there. I bumped into Odd further down the road and he told me how that bridge had been unlucky for him. He’d got mortared on it this time and during the previous Gulf war he’d been kidnapped on it. I explained I wouldn’t be walking over it with him ever again.

We were mortared on Bridge 4 on two more occasions one of which saw Jeremy Thompson’s producer wounded by shrapnel. It was a very slight wound. So slight that I was jealous that he’d get to go home and I was looking at weeks more of this shit.

It all sounds a bit easier than it was. It was very hot and we were wearing body armour and helmets. We must’ve hummed because we weren’t really washing much. Cav and Keith had a petrol 4×4. When their reserves ran out they had to head back over the border. They refuelled but it took them 4 attempts to get back in and involved them driving over ‘Burms’ (massive sand dunes like hills) . Cav told me when he got back that he’d had a shower and then a bath and then another shower and had only just started to get the filth off. What with the dirt and the lack of food, not to mention the fact we couldn’t get a drink it was definitely not a holiday. The only good thing was the sleeping. It got dark at about 5.30pm and got bright about 5am. There was nothing to do during those hours so you slept. In a place like that you really sleep. I expect it’s a combination of several thing. It’s dark and there is no artificial light, but the main thing is you really don’t have any worries whilst you are there. You don’t have money worries. You just live day by day. Your brain (well mine did) just blocks everything else out. I had my digital compact Ixus with me. I’d look at pictures of my family each night on it whilst I had my last fag of the day. It packed in about two weeks in and it left me with nothing. I’ve never slept again like I did out there. Twelve hours and then a few more at lunch-time when the temperature got right up. Lovely. It was bloody hard on your kit too. Everything got coated in sand. Not sand like you get on Margate beach. It was more like talcum powder and it got everywhere. I was shooting on a Nikon D1x and swapping lenses from a bum-bag. It all coped well. Some of the files are a bit dotted with sensor dust but nothing you can’t heal. At least it was only sand I had to contend with, Paul Grover had been embedded with British troops and at some point his APC had been hit by a rocket. He pulled out a couple of days later and returned to London. He had a couple of days off then got sent to Canada to cover a North Pole expedition. On the way to one of his connecting flights in Canada they tested his bag for explosives (that swab thing you get at Heathrow now and then) and all the alarms went off. He got banged up and missed the flight, everything he had with him in the APC had explosive residue on it. They let him out eventually.

Basra still hadn’t fallen but news was coming in from elsewhere. Whilst Keith and Cav went back to change cars we had a couple of expeditions away from Basra. We popped down to Umm Qasar. The major port in the south. It was described by a radio 4 journalist as a bit like Southampton. They interviewed a squaddie expecting him to confirm the Southampton comparison he replied “You can’t get a drink, the women aren’t interested and the men want to kill you … it’s more like Portsmouth” class. Someone fired a rocket at us on the road. It missed by so much that we barely saw it or heard it. We also tried to get to Fallujah. The Americans blocked us and then threatened to kill us. They trained their guns on our car and I reckon it was the closest we came to dying during the whole conflict.

We’d made a friend or two at the base with our Sat phone, with our occasional fresh fruit delivery and just with our conversation. There was one sergeant called Pete, a Scotsman. Top bloke. As mad as it sounds what with all the kit I had, I’d gone out there without a helmet. We made some inquiries with Pete he said someone would come and see us and a squaddie with a spare helmet turned up. The squaddie got to ring his Mrs and got 4 bananas. A refill for the Toyota cost about 5 bananas.

The other Brits turned up on Bridge 4 eventually. They were living far more precariously than we were. Our CO wasn’t letting anyone else on the base. We bumped into Sun photographer Phil Hannaford and he mentioned a place that could provide us with a well deserved drink. We’d been dry for about a month. Alcohol was available in Iraq but not allowed in Kuwait. We had to head back down the road to Kuwait. Just before the border town was a farm with the only yellow JCB in southern Iraq. We had to ask for Ali. We never went, we still hadn’t got into Basra.

Basra was our endgame. When the other Brit journalists caught up with us Patrick became anxious that they would get in before us. They tried and got shot up. We tried one day and had to turn back. The next day we went in. We whizzed around from prisons to hospital to high streets. We’d finally got in. The Sheraton was looted to death so we headed back to the Army base. Up until now we’d got up every morning and decided on the day what we were going to do/report/shoot. The morning after getting into Basra was the first time the Picture Desk started telling me what I should be doing…it was time to leave.

Patrick had been teasing me for days. One day he’d say we should knock it on the head, the next day he’d say we should head for Baghdad. I’d set my heart on staying and moving up north to cover the end of the regime, but when the offer of an early cut was mooted I started to set my heart on that instead. He went back and forth day after day. I was going mental. In the end we made a decision. We realised we were not going to reach Baghdad before it fell. We decided to go back. We’d finished.

Sergeant Pete had helped us out many a time. We’d shared what we had with him and he’d done the same. Cav and I had the address of the farm we could get some drink from. Patrick and I were going home, we’d decided. We went to the ‘Off License’ it was on the road to Safwan. Simple enough mission?  Safwan was very anti British Army. Cav and I didn’t know how far into Safwan we would have to go. The locals there had been stoning coalition vehicles. We had to be careful. We got full Kevlared up. We drove to the farm we’d been directed to. We drove in and were met by a pick-up truck full of Iraqis. A fella came over and asked us what we wanted. We asked for Ali, they looked blankly at us. There was a yellow JCB there though. We drove out thinking we’d f**ked up. The pick-up followed us. We went down the road and the truck was following us. We pulled over. The truck stopped behind us. Cav was driving he looked at me and said “What the f**k are we going to do?” I watched the driver from the pick-up get out and walk toward us. I wound the window down an inch. What protection I thought leaving the glass up could do is beyond me. The man walked up and bent down to the gap, he said “You want whiskey ?” We said no we wanted wine and beer, he said OK and went back to his car. He left someone with us and returned 15 minutes later with 3 bottles of whiskey. We paid him and raced back to the base. When we walked in Keith quipped “I bet that’s the first time you’ve worn a bullet proof jacket to the Off License” I replied “No Keith, I live in Peckham.” We gave one of the bottles to Sergeant Pete and drank the rest.

We bailed out the next day. Cav had been told to meet up with another Standard reporter but Keith joined myself and Patrick on the route home. Cav joined us 24 hours later when his reporter couldn’t liase with him. We drove back through Safwan and I had my whole Brit Army uniform on to make the locals think we were top brass in the hope they would let us pass. Either way the locals refrained from chucking rocks at us and we got back to the hotel intact.

We watched the fall of Baghdad that night on the tv. We wouldn’t have made it in time. We’d made the right call.

Going to war is an interesting thing. The term ‘going to war’ is very evocative. My eldest brother, who drives a bus for a living when he’s not being a union rep, said to me when I came back “that must’ve been great, going to war?” I never really thought of it like that but he has a point. It’s a bit of a game changer for life. He saw it as a rite of passage that he’d been denied. He thought I was lucky because I got to go and test my nerve and I kind of see his point. I suppose confronting death head on makes you feel like you have an element of control over it, you don’t obviously. But people do it again and again. Not just us, people are drawn to wars like moths to a flame. It is exciting, getting shot at or being mortared is exciting. But it’s also lethal. Problem is, humans can’t always marry the two up.

I’ve stepped away from conflict. I have small children to worry about. I’m not saying I’d never go back though. It was very interesting after all …

Here are my pictures.

GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF

DTEM-21/03/03-GULF.<br /><br /><br /><br />
THE BATTLE FOR UMM QASAR, IRAQ. DTEM BATTLE 2 GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF GULF

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Sunday Review 10/03/13

I did say it would be a weeklyish Blog….But I suppose nearly three months is a bit of a stretch. January is always a quiet month. February is never going to set the world on fire either. March has arrived and it feels like the year has finally got rolling. It’s a big old beast the news world, and it does take a while to get rolling.

There have been some news stories knocking about..a helicopter crashed into a crane and plummeted to the ground killing two and bringing traffic to a halt in Vauxhall…I was at home with the kids and had to watch it on Sky.

There have been quite a few Arts jobs and of course the annual beast count at London Zoo. Some smart arsed Guardian journo decided to do a ‘humorous’ piece about the animals lining up and included the photographers as some of those waiting to be counted…how amusing. My wife quoted one of my kids who described him as a ‘poo-poo-bumhead’ in her comment after the piece on their website.

There have been a few political stories. Train fares minister Simon Burns and his penchant for chauffeur driven transport rather than trains…involving a 5AM doorstep in Chelmsford to see him off to work. Chuka Umunna the great hope for The Labour Party and a man I instantly liked and one of my favourite portraits, amazing what you can do with 3 minutes and some lucky light.

Then of course there was the early year Godsend that was the Chris Huhne and ex-wife Vicky Pryce trial at Southwark Crown Court. Mr Huhne’s car had been caught on camera speeding. He had ‘persuaded’ his wife to ‘take the points’…he then left her for his bi-sexual researcher and Mrs Huhne (Vicky Pryce) exacted her revenge by dobbing him in. They both ended up in the dock…both guilty and on this Monday the 11th March I will be at Southwark to see them sentenced.

The Huhne case has been good to me if I’m being honest. I’ve had quite a few publications from it, but it’s not been without grief. The job has been blighted by a man called Stuart. Stuart has been turning up at high profile court cases for the last twenty years. He carries a placard and shouts…he shouts a lot… about one thing or another. Those that don’t know him would call him a protestor. He’s not. He’s a man who likes getting on camera who happens to carry a placard. He’s very annoying. He ruins your clear long full length. He cannot be reasoned with and he has a tendency to become violent. I tend to just work around him which was easy with Vicky Pryce. She had obviously been coached about how to deal with us photographers. She would always pause and look to camera so if Stuart was directly behind her and you called her from a side on position she would turn giving you a clean background. Some people found Stuart a bit too much and on the last day of her trial it came to blows. To be fair nobody laid a hand on Stuart. Stuart has a dog, some sort of pit-bull type thing, which he adorns with it’s own placard. In a fit of frustration the dog’s placard got taken and thrown. Stuart reacted by assaulting the photographer who took it. Two members of the public saw the scuffle and immediately took sides against the photographer…we all took umbrage with this and tackled the members of the public. A ‘journalist’ from ‘The Huffington Post’ watched this and without bothering to get our side of events wrote an annoyingly predictable piece about ‘Paparazzi’ oppressing the free speech of  a valiant protestor. We put him and his editors straight and got a bit of an apology..not as much as we wanted but every little helps.

This last week has been one of my most successful for ages and it’s all been court jobs. Admittedly Monday and Tuesday were to do with St James’ Court as I travelled to Grimsby to cover The Duchess of Cambridge’s visit. I’d covered the Queen on a visit to East London the week before and was continuing the Royal theme up north. Kate was doing three visits. The Telegraph had applied and got ‘Fixed Point’ positions at all three venues. Problem was, you couldn’t do all three, so I had to chose. I went for the Fire station visit. I chose correctly. Just as we were all thinking it had been a bad idea The Duchess stopped and stooped to speak to a small group of children. The little 3 year old boy in the middle of the group chatted away to her with his finger firmly lodged up his nose. It was the best pic of the day, problem was, the story had happened elsewhere. Kate had accepted a teddy bear from someone at the first visit and had accidentally let slip that she is expecting a daughter…allegedly…Some you win some you lose.

A very quick visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum the next morning ( I’d been told before I even got there that I had to move on to another job) was followed by a visit to The East London Industrial Tribunal to photograph Lord Sugar and Stella English who were in dispute over her post Apprentice role with his company…both were cooperative and it published..as did the ‘V&A’ pic…surprisingly, considering how little time I’d had.

The Vicky (Huhne) Pryce finale came on Thursday as mentioned above and Friday was another day in the rain outside The Old Bailey for Rebekah Brooks and co.

An interesting start to the year. Some cold wet days but some well used pictures. So far so good.

Here are some of the pix…(though I still don’t know exactly what Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall and his marine character dressed friends were protesting about)…

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